Capsule Wardrobe, Part 3: Maintenance

In the past few months, we've talked about creating a capsule wardrobe from your existing pool of clothes and giving yourself the freedom to own things you that you love. We've also discussed how to do a second evaluation of your choices, and how to actually get rid of those extra things that are cluttering up your space.

But sometimes all of those initial decisions feel good for only a short time. Then the shopping spree hits, or the emotional crisis comes, or your washer breaks and you wish you had more clothes to avoid washing them so often.

This is when you need a little help in the maintenance area. Pro tip: this maintenance thing applies to any clutter problem you are experiencing, not just that of your closet.

First I'd like to remind you that there's a why involved here. It's incredibly important, because if you're not sure of your reasons, you will fail. No matter how much you purge or organize or declutter, the results of those efforts will not last unless some of your other habits change.

So grab a scrap of paper and jot down your why. Real quick. Just so you're certain, when you're out and about, why buying a second set of placemats or yet another cute flannel is a bad idea. Remind yourself that no one is making you do this and it is not a punishment.

You might be doing this for your budget. For the overwhelmed feeling that rises in the back of your throat when you think about doing laundry. For the impossible annoyance of picking what to wear. Whatever your reason, make it about you and how you want to change your life for the better.

. S H O P P I N G .
This is where I often fail. I don't spend a lot of money on large purchases in department stores; I let my cash trickle out on clearance racks, nifty deals, unique thrift store finds, and garage sales too good to pass up. But just because something is cheap or hugely discounted does not mean that it is saving you money. When you look at the bottom of your receipt at that ever-so-satisfying, "You Saved" amount, look again; that amount is only money saved if you actually needed those items. If they were worthless, duplicate, or extra things, then they did not save you money.

This is an incredibly hard mindset to break. The world has wired us to get an adrenaline rush every time we see a sale. It's practically an addiction. I like to call it "the BOGO life," wherein we have been trained to find the best deal out there. And when we do find it, we snatch it up - in multiples. Because why have one when you can have two, right?

But really, having more does not create more joy (and if you're here, than you probably already know that). Here's how to stop the crazy flow of more:

  • Wait till there's a need before you fill it. Try to batch your shopping trips instead of going multiple times a week; extra time in the store means extra money disappearing from your wallet. If you use apps or other coupon sources to save money, don't allow yourself to browse through the coupons at random (because seeing a coupon for HaloTop is going to ensure that all you want is ice cream). Only search on there after you've made your shopping list and know exactly what you need - not want. (For more money-saving resources, check out this post.)
  • Make a shopping list while you're at home - and stick to it. If your wardrobe seems just fine to you at home, then it's not necessary to add to it while you're out grocery shopping or picking up diapers at Target. If your clothes were good enough for you before you went to the store, then they're good enough. Anyone who says otherwise is trying to sell you something. If there's an item of clothing you need, only leave the store with that item - even if something else is on sale.
  • Shut down your search for satisfaction. Sometimes splurging on a dress feels really, really good. But then you get it home, and you either never wear it, don't actually like it, lose it amidst your other dresses, or end up taking yet another trip to return it. Satisfy these cravings by doing a mental checklist of everything you have that makes you happy. Find a way to enjoy simple things, without buying more of them.

. A C C E P T I N G   F R E E B I E S .
Freebies are even worse than bright red clearance tags. Accepting things from your friends, neighbors, relatives, etc. happens entirely too easy. It's free, so why not? Ah, because it's not worth it. Anything that you allow into your home is going to require your attention - it will take up time and space that you probably don't want to sacrifice for it.

Giveaways are another thing that are uproariously popular right now. They're fun, and you get a similar adrenaline rush like you did when you saw the giant sale. But honestly, do you need a third handbag? Another onesie to add to your laundry pile? A tenth graphic tee that will get lost amid the others? 

Chances are, you don't need it or even truly want it. You're just excited by the prospect of more and different. Try to pick these two voices out of a crowd and recognize when you are giving them control of your stuff.

  • It's okay to say no. Seriously, say no to the scarf your neighbor is getting rid of. Say no to the mug that your mom found at a thrift store. Just say no to stuff coming into your home that you don't need or love. Even useful items (like socks, screwdrivers, etc.) are unhelpful if you won't use them. And if you already have three, you're not going to use the extras. Trust me.
  • Nothing is free. Don't fall into the trap that just because there is a freebie attached, it is worth it. "Buy 3, Get 1 FREE" literally means nothing. I've fallen for this many times (that's why there's three boxes of toaster strudel in my freezer right now. And yes, I got one of them for "free." But...I wasn't going to buy any in the first place). So ignore the free signs unless it's something you actually want AND need AND had on your aforementioned list.

. O R G A N I Z I N G .
I love organizing things. Oh my gosh, do I love putting things in their rightful place, or rearranging a drawer just so, or lining my hanging clothes up by color. I could do this stuff for hours. And sometimes, it's a really cool thing that makes my house look spot on.

But other times, all it does is disguise my clutter. Which means that about 15 minutes later, when I need that one thing from the back of the drawer I just organized, all hell breaks loose and my work is ruined by the explosion of stuff that simply doesn't fit.

So here's what I'm saying: organize your heart out if it makes you happy. But otherwise, do everything in your power to make organizing unnecessary. If you had like, say, three books on your bookshelf, you'd never have to worry about them getting out of hand, now would you?

  • Don't buy more containers. Buying another drawer for your workout clothes means you are losing this battle. You are giving in to the stuff and allowing it more space in your home. You will always, always, always fill the space that you are given. That's just the way it works. So pull out the boxes and dust off the bins and put your laundry in obvious places - folded neatly and stacked if you have to. If that seems overwhelming, than you probably have a bit too much.
  • Stop hiding the extras. Keep all of your clothes in plain sight as much as possible. That thing you keep forgetting you own? Put it front-and-center. I have a stack of clear drawers that sits below my hanging clothes and acts as a dresser. It's cheap, simple, affordable (yay walmart) and because it's clear, I always know what my options are. It's also pretty easy to deduce when I need to do some laundry. 

What's one thing you can't stop yourself from buying, even if you already have 10 of them at home? What other ways do you minimize the stuff in your closet? What percentage of your wardrobe do you actually enjoy wearing? I'd love to hear your failures in this area, haha, ooooorrr your handy-dandy tips!


  1. These are excellent tips. I especially like the point about not actually saving money buying things you don't need and not accept freebies. You are spot on that everything we bring into our homes will require attention!

    1. Thanks! I'm trying to teach myself the concept of not accepting freebies "just because." Also, it takes a ton of extra effort to return an item I decide I don't need, lol

  2. Great ideas! I love the thought of NO! It's so easy to accept things people are giving away or things found cheap when it's better to not even go there. If I need it later, chances are I can find one then. Thanks for the tips!

    1. It is so nice to share things between friends and neighbors...when needed. When I truly need something that I don't own, I get a chance to ask someone else for help, and I think that can deepen relationships!

  3. I struggle so much with free stuff and now my kids are bringing home things just because they are free. We are working on it.

    1. It's so hard to turn it down. But then later I look at the piles of free stuff in our house and I hate it. Gotta make some boundaries, I guess?

  4. These are such good tips! I think that a lot of people fall into these traps thinking that they're getting a great deal on something when really they're just becoming a slave to debt or excess "stuff".

    1. Yes! And having more stuff just traps them more; they end up with lots of useless items, so they end up spending more money on things they actually need.

  5. These are some great tips! I love to shop clearance racks and thrift stores and I so often pass up great deals only because I talk myself out of it. I recently found a black dress at target that would of been under $4 at check out, but I told myself not to buy it, because I don't need another black dress. Plus I have the same dress in a different pattern. It's hard to pass up, but it's not saving you money when your buying double.

    1. Exactly! Way to be. I can just hear people saying, "You passed up a $4 dress?!" but YOU get to make those calls. And your overall happiness lasts longer than that one moment of that-was-such-a-steal ;)